Meet Transition, the SA-made fixed-wing drone

Added by Regardt van der Berg on 14 June 2016. · · Share this Post

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Knysna-based SteadiDrone is again defining itself as one of South Africa’s best technology exports with the launch of a new, fixed-wing, rapid-to-deploy unmanned aerial system. By Regardt van der Berg.

Duran de Villiers

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It’s been just over four years since since a small media production company in Knysna, started by Duran de Villiers, decided to explore the world of aerial photography.

That idea turned into a multimillion-dollar drone business two years later, and now SteadiDrone is behind another new company and a homegrown drone called the Alti Transition UAS (unmanned aerial system).

Alti is a new and completely separate division of SteadiDrone, says De Villiers.

“It has the same people behind it as SteadiDrone, but it is the next evolution for us as a company and the type of products we develop.”

De Villiers says that, as with SteadiDrone, Alti is entirely self-funded.

The first product from Alti is called Transition — a multi-rotor, fixed-wing aircraft that runs on electricity and fuel. Its batteries power the rotors, while the fuel payload drives the 20cc four-stroke petrol motor located on the fixed-wing body.

This allows the Transition the versatility of a quadcopter with the altitude, travel distance and flight times associated with a fixed-wing drone.

The Transition comes with a fully featured autonomous avionics system.

“The Alti Transition is a higher-end commercial and industrial aircraft with much longer endurance and great range. We’re not limiting its use to a set industry. It allows up to six hours’ range like that of a fixed wing but has the ability to take off and land vertically, in and out of confined spaces. It offers huge advantages over traditional drone systems.”

De Villiers says he sees vertical takeoff and landing as the next big thing in UAS technology.

“It’s the natural next step to bridge the gap between practicality and efficiency. Multi-rotors hover very well and are great for many uses, but lack the endurance of a fixed wing — but that requires a runway or large open spaces to takeoff and land. The Transition bridges that gap.”

The software is based on the autonomous and open PX4 platform. The PX4 flight stack is an autopilot software technology for multi-copter and fixed-wing aircraft. The Transition also features a proprietary software and hardware avionics system with a ground control system suite.

The stealth-looking Transition features a carbon Kevlar fuselage that has been tested in a wind tunnel and designed to keep the weight down. It’s wingspan is 2,76m and it’s 2,3m long, while its maximum takeoff weight is 12kg.

The Transition’s payload bay area has been designed to accommodate a large variety of cameras, sensors and other equipment that may be required. For most surveillance requirements, SteadiDrone suggests a sensor such as the Vision CM100 to be mounted on the Alti.

De Villiers says he hopes to get the Alti Transition in the hands of licensed South African operators to assist them in local conservation efforts.

SteadiDrone also boasts one of the fastest deployment times for a UAS of this nature, claiming a case-to-flight time of under five minutes.

The Alti Transition is a commercial product and will start at around R1m (for a fully operational system).  — © 2016 NewsCentral Media

  • Basson

    Congrats guys!

  • Aaron Anderson

    Clever idea, combining lightweight electric rotors for VTOL and a fuel engine for normal light. Well done, nice to see such innovation locally.

  • Davebee

    Good to see some techies doing something useful.
    Please send 20 of these drones to Eskom/Ekurhuleni to suss out the thousands of ILLEGAL POWER THEFT CABLES that spider-web our rates away!
    Oh, and one more to check on the Gupta’s pad in Saxonwold, we don’t want anymore cosy ANC Biznessmen cabinet meetings in their kombuis do we?

  • Marcus Margot

    Hi Guys great job, my nephew an expat in Canada is developing a jet turbine for that class of UAV let me know if you are interested, another think have you considered using a PhaseONE iXU 1000 payload which has a 100mp sensor and a weight of only 1.8kg let me know if you are interested. Wow I love that combination, I also have friends that will be interested in a military and commercial use of your design, just let me know if you are interested.